Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
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The harbour and township of Bossiney lay within the manor of Tintagel, which with the borough and castle belonged to the duchy of Cornwall: the manor was sometimes called Bossiney. By the reign of Henry VIII the castle was ruinous and although served by a constable and other officers it barely sufficed for a prison. The erosion of the castle by the sea and its neglect by the duchy had contributed to the decline of the settlement beneath its walls and the migration of many inhabitants to the township a mile away to the east. The preference for Bossiney does not seem to have affected the parish of Tintagel, as the church serving both Bossiney and Tintagel remained at Trevena, half a mile to the south of the castle. Bossiney was administered separately from Tintagel by the duchy, both having reeves of their own until the reeve of Bossiney was superseded by a mayor in 1552 or the following year. In 1539 the borough of Bossiney paid a fee-farm of over £10 to the duchy while Tintagel provided three times as much. The manor of Tintagel had received a charter from the earl of Cornwall in the 13th century and royal confirmation of its liberties in 1386 and 1426. Since no charter is known for Bossiney, the parliamentary borough was probably self-governing by prescription. No municipal records for the period have been traced.4

Bossiney was almost certainly enfranchised in 1547 through the agency of Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, later 1st Earl of Bedford, as high steward of the duchy. Sir John Arundell of Lanherne as constable of Tintagel castle, and his brother Sir Thomas Arundell as receiver-general for the duchy, perhaps also had a hand in the matter since of the two Members in 1547 William Carnsew was a kinsman of the receiver-general and John Withypoll could have been known to him. The indentures and lists of Members for the period reflect some hesitation over the name of the parliamentary borough. The list of Members for the Parliament of 1547 gives the Members as elected for Trevena but the indenture of February 1553 was ‘made at Bossiney’, whereas the Journal a month later refers to Trevena; in September of the same year the party contracting with the sheriff of Cornwall was the mayor and burgesses of Trevena, and the Crown Office list also has Trevena. The compiler of the list for April 1554 apparently thought that there were two boroughs, as he entered the names of Members under Bossiney but added Trevena without names. The indenture for October 1554 gives the electors as the mayor and community of Trevena, and that for 1555 is headed ‘Trevena alias Bossiney’ but has ‘alias Trevena’ inserted after ‘Bossiney’ in the text. The indenture for 1558 is defaced, but both lists of Members for the Parliament have ‘Trevena alias Bossiney’. In other respects the four surviving indentures, of which only that for September 1553 is in English, are in the usual form, the electors being the mayor and ‘burgesses’ or ‘community’ of the borough, probably the burgage-holders.5

Of the 12 Members known to have sat for Bossiney, six (Robert Beverley, Richard Forsett, Robert Gayer, Thomas Johnson, John Ley alias Kempthorn and Ralph Skinner) were elected before the opening of Parliament and three (Carnsew, Ley and William Roscarrock) were Cornishmen. Election seems to have been treated as a precaution against failure elsewhere: in February 1553 Humphrey Cavell was returned and in March 1554 John Fitz, but Cavell chose to sit for Ludgershall and Fitz for Tavistock. Although the outcome of the by-election ordered on 11 Mar. 1553 for a replacement for Cavell is not known, Fitz was replaced by the ex-master of the rolls, John Beaumont. At some point after being drawn up two of the indentures were altered, the names of George Harrison and Thomas Stanley being inserted in different hands over erasures. Of those elected or returned to Parliament only Harrison, who almost certainly owed his place in the House to Forsett, a colleague at Gray’s Inn, and Beaumont, who was similarly obliged to Fitz, seem to have had no links with either the 1st and 2nd Earls of Bedford or the Arundells of Lanherne.

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. J. Hatcher, Rural Econ. and Soc. in the Duchy of Cornw. 1300-1500, pp. 5, 22, 243-4; B. P. Wolffe, The R. Demense in Eng. Hist., 240; The King's Works, ii. 845-6; C. A. R. Radford, Tintagel Castle Cornw., 5, 9-10; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 176; Duchy Cornw. RO, B96, receiver-gen.'s accts. 220; information from G. Haslam.
  • 4. J. Hatcher, Rural Econ. and Soc. in the Duchy of Cornw. 1300-1500, pp. 5, 22, 243-4; B. P. Wolffe, The R. Demesne in Eng. Hist., 240; The King’s Works, ii. 845-6; C. A. R. Radford, Tintagel Castle, Cornw., 5, 9-10; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 176; Duchy Cornw. RO, B96, receiver-gen.’s accts. 220; information from G. Haslam.
  • 5. Hatfield 207; Bodl. e Museo 17; C193/32/1, 2; 219/20/22, 21/25, 23/31, 24/33, 25/22; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264; CJ, i. 24.